Arianna Talamona glides through the pool at the Saini Sports Center in Milan. Stroke after stroke, she perfects her technique and builds her speed with one goal in mind – to reach the world’s biggest sporting stage in 2020.

Tokyo is the destination for this 25-year-old swimmer from Italy. It’s a platform to make her country and family proud, to enjoy the rewards of years of training, early morning pool sessions and afternoons in the gym.

Arianna is a Paralympic swimmer having spent most of her life in a wheelchair due to a hereditary degenerative neurological disease. This hasn’t stopped her excelling at sport (most recently winning three gold and 2 silver medals at the World Championships in London), in education and in the world of social media.

Do the things you thought weren’t possible

She’s not only a successful athlete but also a student of psychology, a model and a fashion blogger. Arianna doesn’t accept barriers, physical or mental.

Competing for team Italy, Arianna experienced her first games in Rio and is now working towards competing at Tokyo 2020.

“Sport has saved me, it really changed my life,” explains Arianna. “Swimming allowed me to grow, to understand my limits, my flaws and my fears. I’ve experienced first-hand how sport can be a great vehicle to overcome barriers, personal challenges and setbacks. It can shift mindsets and not only helps you to become physically stronger but also to develop as a person.”

handicapped women doing yoga
Sport is at the center of Arianna’s day, whether it’s in the yoga hall, in the weight room or in the pool.
Disabled women swimming backstroke
The attention and focus Arianna puts on achieving her times translates into other passions in her life.
handicapped women sitting next to a pool
Having a positive body image and sharing it via social media is one way that Arianna breaks barriers and stereotypes.
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Part and parcel of being a successful athlete is the need to overcome anxiety and remain focused during competitions. This has always been a challenge for Arianna and it came to a head after the 2013 World Championships in Montreal: “My coach told me that I had two options: stop swimming professionally or face up to the things that were holding me back. This meant accepting and working on some uncomfortable and difficult truths.”

“I knew this was the only way to grow and move forwards. I began to consider myself as a blank page, it was up to me to create my own future. This is what allowed me to become the woman I am today and gave me the chance to experience so many different things.”

All bodies are important, all bodies are beautiful

Arianna explains that as her sporting career developed and she received more media attention “I noticed that girls started asking me for fashion advice. That’s why I started my blog about disability and style. I want to help women in a wheelchair or with a prothesis feel more beautiful, to forget any embarrassment that they might associate with their disability and recognize that their bodies are beautiful too.”

No barriers to your dreams

With 15,600 followers on Instagram, Arianna is breaking the stereotype that only able-bodied personalities can share their sporting highs and lows, their fashion successes and fauxpas.

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Ebbene si, mi sono messa a nudo! Quando mi hanno chiamata per propormelo ho accettato subito entusiasta, senza pensarci su molto.. poi, in qualche oretta, mi sono riempita di dubbi, insicurezze.. mettersi a nudo? Ma sono proprio sicura? Avevo paura, tanta. Ma ho pensato che mi sarei pentita più del non averlo fatto che del contrario. Non mi sono pentita per niente, anzi. Sono molto orgogliosa. Orgogliosa di mandare un messaggio di accettazione, amore per se stessi e bellezza in tutte le forme, come insegna @lovecurvy__laurabrioschi. Un po’ ho pensato a lei quando ho fatto le foto. E ho pensato che non potevo parlare di accettazione se per prima non lo facevo con tutta me stessa. Vi dirò, è stato davvero liberatorio! A breve arriveranno le foto originali, per ora guardate queste. L’ultima foto è la reazione di Roberto al nudo😂 La magnifica foto con Roberto è di @pietrorizzato . . . . Yes, i took a picture naked. When they asked me I was very happy and i said yes right away, but after some hours I was afraid and not sure. What am I going to do? Am I sure about it? But then I thought that I would regret not doing it and now I can proudly say I didn’t regret it at all. I am proud of myself and my body; I’m proud of sending a message of love and acceptance. I thought about @lovecurvy__laurabrioschi while I was doing it and it was an empowering experience. The originals will come shortly, but you can enjoy these for now. The last is Roberto’s reaction to the naked picture 😂😂 #talamonatakestokyo #comitatoitalianoparalimpico #FCP2019 #empowerment #nuda #naked @comitatoparalimpicoitaliano @olivierotoscanistudio @fabricaresearchcentre

A post shared by Arianna Talamona (@talamona94) on

“I like to experience everything! I often try to do the things I feel almost certain I can’t do. I just like to push myself. Thanks to this, I have discovered that I actually can do a lot of the things I thought weren’t possible. Not only physically, but also mentally.”

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